What to Do in Bali: A One-Week Itinerary For First-Timers
There is something about Bali that will enrapture you. But I’m not talking about ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (because why seek out recreating scenes from a movie when you can live out your own?). Bali is like a symphony of sensations for any traveler – the sheer volume of rice terraces, temples, cliffs, beaches, and sights all coexisting harmoniously on such a small island will have your head spinning!
I recently traveled to Bali solo, and I was genuinely blown away by this petite, adventure-packed place. From the cultural traditions to the casual beauty everywhere you look to the welcoming people, something about Bali told me that these people truly have it all figured out.
Because Bali is such a popular destination, you might already know there is a LOT you can do here. So much, that you could easily spend a month (or more) uncovering every inch of this island’s mysteries. But if you’re just visiting Bali for 1 week, rest assured, you will be able to see, taste, and experience a good deal of what Bali has to offer!
Here is my recommended 1-week itinerary for exploring Bali! This guide will show you how you can experience Nusa Dua, Uluwatu, Nusa Penida, Ubud, and Canggu in 7 days. Let’s go!
What to Do in Bali: A One-Week Itinerary For First-Timers
Day One: Exploring South Bali (Nusa Dua, Uluwatu)
Relax and Beat Jet-lag in One of Nusa Dua’s Resorts
Truth be told, I started my trip in Nusa Dua because I had Marriott points to use, and Marriott’s Bali Nusa Dua Gardens looked like a relaxing option to beat my jetlag. Many people are quick to recommend other oceanfront parts of the island, like Canggu and Kuta, because Nusa Dua has more of a ‘resort’ feel to it (read: ‘touristy’). However, for a relaxing first day and some guaranteed beach time, Nusa Dua can be a great way to go!
Many resorts and hotels in Nusa Dua have a beachfront location, beach access, or (in my case) a dedicated shuttle that takes guests to and from the beach throughout the day. You’ll often find that the beaches here have reserved cabanas and lounge chairs specifically reserved for hotel guests, which is great if you’re one of them! But if you’re not, bringing a towel to lay on the sand works too.
Beaches to Visit in Nusa Dua:
If you have more time in Nusa Dua, this is a great place to go snorkeling, parasailing, or jet-skiing, too. Or, if you want to get some shopping done, Bali Collection would be the place to do it.
Visit Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple at the southern tip of the island is a beautiful crash-course in South Bali. Uluwatu is famous for epic cliffs and pristine beaches, and the Uluwatu Temple (built at the edge of a cliff itself!) gives you an amazing vantage point to take in the views.
At sunset every night, the Uluwatu Temple hosts a Kecak Dance performance, which is a rhythmic musical performance where a large ensemble of men use their voices as instruments while performers enact a choreographed skit. If you go about an hour and a half before sunset (keep in mind, it takes 40 minutes from Nusa Dua), you should be able to purchase tickets to see the show if you choose to! If it’s your first time in Bali, it’s well worth seeing.
Day Two: Touring Around Nusa Penida
How to Get to Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is an island separate from Bali, but well-worth the trek because of its unbelievable beaches. To fit a visit to Nusa Penida in during your 1-week trip, I recommend leaving Nusa Dua as early as possible to catch the first ferry out. Then, stay on the island for 1 night and catch the ferry back the next day.
To get to Nusa Penida, you’ll need to take a 40-minute ferry from Sanur (your hotel should be able to help you arrange transportation to get there). Be sure to wear clothes above your knees, like shorts or a dress, because you will have to get about shin-deep in water to climb aboard the ferry!
Once on Nusa Penida, you can rent a scooter or organize a day tour of the island.
Regions in Nusa Penida:
You can also find many tours that include snorkeling with manta rays, sailing, cycling, and water sports rentals
I opted for West Island because it includes Kelingking Beach (which I had been dying to see), Angel's Billabong, Broken Beach, and Crystal Bay. However, Diamond Beach on the east coast is another must-visit!
RELATED: Where to Stay in Nusa Penida
Day Three: Heading to Ubud
Day Clubs in Nusa Penida
On your way out of Nusa Penida, you might have some downtime before your ferry departs.
Maruti Beach Club is a convenient place to hang out just a short walk from the dock. It’s free to use the facilities as long as you purchase food or drinks, and it has a pool, cabanas, and plenty of shaded areas to relax with a front-row view of the ocean. The food here is nothing to write home about, but you can’t really go wrong with a smoothie or a piña colada!
How to Get to Ubud
From Sanur to Ubud, the drive will take you anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on traffic. If you’re not driving yourself, I recommend arranging transportation (either with your hotel or with a private driver) ahead of time, and they’ll wait for you at the dock.
Once you get to Ubud, spend some time walking around and exploring the area because central Ubud is astounding! There are so many cafes, yoga studios, bars, and shops that you couldn’t possibly run out of things to do. Depending on what time you arrive, check out the Ubud Art Market where you can wander around and pick up some beautiful woven bags, scarves, or jewelry. However, after you’ve grabbed a bite to eat, go to sleep early because…
Day Four: Hiking Mount Batur and Strolling Around Central Ubud
Hike Mount Batur at Sunrise
Are you up for a super early wake-up call? Like… 2 am early? Because if so, a hike up Mount Batur needs to be part of your agenda. Mount Batur is a volcano located just over an hour northeast of Ubud with views that inspire hundreds of travelers to wake up at a time that many people are just getting ready for bed, just to witness it in person. There are several tour operators that offer group and private hikes to the summit (I opted to go with a small group), but no matter which you choose, you’re looking at a 2 am departure time in order to make it to the top of the volcano before sunrise.
The hike itself takes 1.5 - 2 hours depending on your level of physical fitness, and you do this in total darkness! It’s not as scary as it seems, because the trail is well-maintained, you’ll be provided a flashlight, and your guide will be with you every step of the way.
At the top of the volcano, your reward is getting to see the sun peek out from beneath the horizon, rising in the distance beyond Mount Agung and Mount Agang, two neighboring volcanoes in the area. The colors of the sunrise from this vantage point make every dark step worthwhile! You’ll get to spend around an hour at the summit before heading back down, at which point your guide will take you back to whichever hotel you were staying at.
Coffee & Tea Tasting Near Ubud
Some Mount Batur tours, like mine, end with an optional visit to a Balinese coffee and tea plantation. We visited the Lumbung Sari House of Coffee on our way back to Ubud. I was curious about the coffee and tea here, but I was especially curious about luwak coffee (the famous, expensive poop coffee from Indonesia). The tea and coffee here is absolutely delicious, and I had some of the most fascinating conversations from my entire trip with some of the staff (all of whom were incredibly friendly), but something did not sit well with me about the luwaks themselves. At the plantation, you see luwaks in cages, and while the staff assured me that they were only in cages because they sleep during the day (it’s true, the animals are nocturnal), it wasn’t great to see wild animals in captivity for the sake of producing coffee. I regret trying luwak coffee (the taste to me was not unlike the pour-over coffee I can buy just about anywhere in Los Angeles), but I will say this plantation does produce some incredible teas and non-luwak coffees readily available for sampling. Besides luwak coffee, all other tea and coffee tastings are free and come with the most addicting banana chips. For this, and for some friendly chats with the hospitable staff, the visit was great. Make up your own mind about luwak coffee, but just in terms of taste alone, it’s not worth it.
Ubud Spas and the Famous Balinese Massage
You’ve probably seen photos of travelers enjoying flower baths in Bali. That’s because spa culture here is famous! From relaxing baths to ridiculously soothing massages, you’d be sorely missing out if you didn’t carve out at least an hour to pamper yourself while in Ubud (and, this will feel especially amazing after that hike you just did in the morning!).
In my experience, the average quality Balinese massage begins at $7/hour (insane, right?). When I say quality, I mean clean facilities, courteous masseuses, and hygienic practices. You might see some massage spas marketing cheaper prices but, I wouldn’t trust these unless they have reputable reviews.
For a quick, one-hour Balinese oil massage in Ubud, I would head straight to Starchild Spa. No bells and whistles at the location itself (it’s pretty bare), but I would be lying if I said this was anything short of one of the best massages I’ve had in my life, and it rang it at exactly $8.80 for one hour.
For a full spa experience complete with flower bath, massage, reiki healing, and more, my friends who have been to Bali several times before me cannot recommend Karsa Spa enough!
Ubud Spas and Massage Parlors to Visit:
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Walking around the streets of Ubud, you might notice a monkey or two (or ten) scamper by you on the sidewalk. This isn’t by accident. Located right in the heart of central Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a large conservation center with no gates where monkeys can roam free. Home to more than 700 monkeys, the Monkey Forest is a beautiful habitat covering several acres of property thick with vegetation and temples throughout.
When you visit, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind: don’t run or do anything to startle the monkeys (there are no fences or walls – the monkeys walk around in the same spaces as you!), don’t bring food, keep your backpacks and purses closed, and take care of your belongings including cameras and sunglasses. Monkeys are notoriously cheeky and especially these since they’re so used to humans. They will snatch your sunglasses off your head if you give them an opportunity to! As long as you keep a close eye on your stuff, a visit to the Monkey Forest is nothing short of spectacular.
RELATED: Where to Stay in Ubud
Day Five: Visiting Ubud’s Waterfalls, Temples, and More
While the central villages in Ubud are worth their own time (and you could easily spend several days here alone), there are so many beautiful places worth visiting just outside of town. For day five, I recommend either renting a scooter if you know how to drive one, or hiring a private guide to take you around for the day. Many hotels in Bali will help you with organizing a day tour if needed!
My guide was recommended to me by a friend. His name is Jun (check out his TripAdvisor reviews here!) and he was one of the highlights of my entire trip, hands down. A full-day tour with Jun, for example, cost me about $42 USD (600K IDR).
Here are some places near Ubud you can visit!
Ubud Tegalalang Rice Terraces
The rice terraces in Bali are so much more than a picturesque visit. These terraces use Subak irrigation, which is a process that involves a series of tunnels, canals, terraces, water temples, and priests. The Subak system made the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012 for perfectly demonstrating the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana – the three causes of prosperity: harmony with nature, harmony with humans, and harmony with God. Pretty spectacular, isn’t it?
Tegalalang is one of the closest rice terrace locations to Ubud, and because of that, it’s one of the most popular. I recommend making this your first stop on your day of exploration, as early morning visits to the rice terraces will help you beat the crowds. And, you just can’t beat that beautiful morning light!
There are many waterfalls near Ubud that are well worth visiting. But, if you have just one day to spare exploring, you’ll have to select just one (since driving to these locations can take some time, and hiking down to each waterfall from the parking lot can also drain time as well).
In the area, Tegenungan Waterfall is one of the most popular falls visitors flock to. It’s a massive waterfall with safe areas to swim, lots of space to hang out, and viewing platforms that allow you to get different vantage points of the falls itself.
For a bit more seclusion, try Tibumana Waterfall, which is smaller in size but just as stunning to witness. The walk down to Tibumana is scenic in its own right, with lush green surrounding and a bridge to cross before you get to the falls itself. The area to swim is a bit smaller, but since fewer people visit this location in general, it was hardly a problem.
Temples Near Ubud
Balinese temples (known locally as a pura) are not just beautiful – they’re actually constructed under a highly specific set of sacred rules, guidance, and rituals that govern all Balinese architecture (so that the buildings can be in harmony with the environment). After you spend some time in Bali, you’ll learn that there are tons of temples throughout the island. That’s because there are several types of Balinese temples, and each serves a different function based on physical location and on the specific Hindu god(s) each temple is dedicated to.
Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali. Because of this, you’ll find a concentration of temples and sanctuaries of religious significance in the area!
Temples Near Ubud to Visit:
Ubud isn’t exactly the nightlife hub of the island, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lively scene here after dark. If you’re itching for something fun to do after dinner, here are my recommendations!
Things to Do in Ubud at Night:
Watch a traditional Legong dance at the Ubud Royal Palace
Seek out some live music at Bali Bohemia, the Laughing Buddha Bar, or the dozens of restaurants in central Ubud offering entertainment (just walk around and listen for music at night – so many restaurants have live music each evening you won’t have a hard time finding something good!)
Watch a nighttime movie at Paradiso Ubud
Day Six: Heading to Canggu
Ubud Yoga Classes
Depending on how late you stay out the night before, you might be able to check out Ubud’s incredible yoga scene before you leave! Whether you avidly practice yoga or whether you’re just curious about the popular yoga culture that exists in Bali, there are some wonderful places to take a yoga class in Ubud.
For the most part, Ubud yoga classes are fairly inexpensive (around $9 or less per class). And, because many Ubud yoga studios cater to travelers, you’ll usually find mats and props available for free. No matter what style of yoga you practice, from fast-paced vinyasa to guided meditative flows, odds are you’ll find a class in Ubud.
Ubud Yoga Studios To Visit:
How to Get to Canggu
Canggu is about 45 minutes - 1 hour from Ubud. You can take a taxi, rent a scooter, or get a private driver (which your hotel can help you arrange. Or, if you took a private tour the day before and you enjoyed your driver, odds are he will have rates for transportation to different parts of the island!). For instance, my guide, Jun, charged me somewhere between 300-400IDR ($21-$28 USD) to get to Canggu, which I found to be very fair. After a while, I promise you paying a little extra for an air-conditioned car ends up being so worth it, especially if you have luggage to take with you.
Catch the Sunset at Pura Tanah Lot
If this is your first time in Canggu, head straight to Pura Tanah Lot in time for sunset. Tanah Lot is a rock formation on the beach, and the temple that sits on top of it is one of seven ocean temples in Bali that protects the island. It is breathtaking already in its own right, but at dusk, this area will provide you one of the most stunning views of the sunset. It’s a very popular attraction so it will get crowded, but it’s hard to blame anyone for wanting to witness Tanah Lot at sunset once you see it for yourself!
Canggu is one of the foodie meccas of Bali. Here, you can find every possible cuisine from Italian, to Indonesian to an impressive roster of vegan offerings. With only one night in Canggu, here are some well-loved places to consider for dinner:
Restaurants to Try in Canggu:
Lola’s Cantina Mexicana (located just off The Shortcut, Canggu’s popular shortcut route to the beach)
There’s an undeniable nightlife scene in Canggu because of this region’s popularity with expats. One of the popular hotspots for travelers is Old Man’s, where you can do everything from grab a bite at sunset to dance the night away.
Day Seven: Relaxing in Canggu Before Heading to the Airport
Beach Clubs in Canggu
Just like Canggu’s nightlife scene, the daytime scene is equally geared towards kicking back and having fun. If you have just a couple hours to spare before your flight, relaxing at a beach club is the way to go.
Beach Clubs in Canggu to Visit:
How to Get to the Airport from Canggu
The Bali International Airport is about an hour from Canggu, so budget your time accordingly! Again, your hotel can help you with transportation, or you might be able to arrange transportation with your guide from the days before. Expect to pay around 150K - 300K ($10-$21 USD).
Other Things to Do If You Have More Time
Visit One of the Gili Islands: You’ll probably hear a lot about ‘The Gilis’ while you’re in Bali. This trio of tiny, but immensely popular islands is famous for sandy beaches, dive centers, full moon parties, zero cars (they aren’t allowed), and unbelievable sunsets. Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T), is the largest, most social island with lots of places to dance and grab drinks. Gili Meno is small, relaxed, and romantic. And, Gili Air is sort of a cross between the other two.
Visit Nusa Lembongan: Nusa Lembongan is one of the smaller Nusa islands and is popular for its beaches and diving.
Pamper Yourself in Seminyak: For a ‘treat yourself’ take on Bali, spend some time in Seminyak. This town offers well-loved spas, fine dining, and boutique shopping that will zen you out and give you every reason to extend your stay in Bali (or, you know, never leave).
Experience the Nightlife in Kuta and Legian: For an opposite but also interesting take on Bali, head to Kuta or Legian. Here, you’ll find young, rambunctious (do I sound old saying this….?) crowds, large clubs, cheap drink deals, and lots of dancing.
Spend Extra Time in Nusa Dua, Nusa Penida, Ubud, or Canggu: Of course, if you have extra time in Bali and want to slow things down a bit, I highly recommend just spending extra time in any of the places included in this guide! If I could redo my week in Bali and extend it into two, I would gladly double-up on my days in Nusa Dua, Nusa Penida, Ubud, and Canggu!
Where to Stay in Bali
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Explore all hotel options in Bali here.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bali
Bumbu Bali, Nusa Dua
Maruti Beach Club, Nusa Penida
Copper Kitchen and Bar, Ubud
Ibu Susu Bar & Kitchen, Ubud
Warung Di Koi, Ubud (this is a bit of a touristy warung, but the mie goreng here is pretty good)
No Mas Bar, Ubud
CP Lounge, Ubud
Umah Pizza, Ubud
Black Pearl, Ubud
The Shady Shack, Canggu
Lola’s Cantina Mexicana, Canggu
Warung Bu Mi, Canggu
Cinta Cafe, Canggu
GIVE Cafe, Canggu
Green Ginger Noodle House, Canggu
Fishbone Local, Canggu
Two Fingers, Canggu
Tips to Know Before You Go to Bali
Currency: Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah. 1 Indonesian Rupiah is equivalent to $0.000071 USD. It’s important to bring cash with you, but there are also ATMs throughout the more populated regions (like Ubud and Canggu) that you can easily use to withdraw more as needed. And, you should be able to use your card at hotels and many restaurants as well.
Language: In Bali, the main languages spoken are Balinese, Indonesian, and English. You can get by with English easily, as the island is very much geared towards tourism. However, locals will be thrilled if you take the time to learn some phrases in Indonesian or Balinese while you’re here!
Transportation: Bali isn’t as small as you might think. You’ll need to figure out transportation to get you from point A to B pretty much every day of this itinerary! But, fortunately, there are several affordable options for seeking out transportation in Bali:
Rent a scooter for $5-7 USD/day
Rent a car
Use a ride-hailing app to be picked up by car or scooter (Grab and Gojek are the apps used in Bali)
Have your hotel call a taxi
Hire a private guide/driver for $15 - $40 USD depending on the length of time and the places you’re trying to visit. Need a specific recommendation? My guide, Jun, was the best! Check out his TripAdvisor reviews here!
Hop on the local shuttle bus that traverses all over the main tourist areas in Bali. For a full list of routes, see here.
Weather: Bali is close to the equator, so expect tropical heat and humidity year-round. Like the rest of Southeast Asia, Bali has a wet season and a dry season. Bali’s wet season is roughly November to April, and dry season is from May to October (but don’t let that stop you from traveling throughout the year – I traveled during the start of rainy season and the weather held up for the majority of my stay!). Regardless of rainfall, the average temperature in Bali during the day is 80ºF (26.7ºC).
Attire: Pack a good selection of lightweight, loose, breathable clothing so you can be comfortable throughout Bali’s hot days and warm, humid evenings. To visit temples in Bali, you’ll want to also pack clothes that cover your legs, like long pants and long skirts.
One week in Bali will surely make you hungry to return. I know it did for me. The variety of experiences that can be had here are frankly unparalleled, and the people are genuinely some of the most inviting and hospitable you’ll meet. After a week-long crash course in Bali’s temples, beaches, landmarks, waterfalls, and restaurants, you’ll know exactly what you want to come back and seek out here again and again.
Ready to Go to Bali?
What are you most excited to see, do, eat, or experience in Bali? Tell me in the comments!